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Epulis in Dogs (Benign Gum Growth)

What Is an Epulis in Dogs?

An epulis is a benign growth found in the mouth of dogs. It forms over or around a tooth and originates from the periodontal ligament, which connects the tooth to the surrounding bone. These growths, known as epulides, can vary in appearance, appearing either smooth or cobblestone-like and may grow either in a mound or on a stalk. Typically, epulides in dogs match the color of their gums.


Here are the primary types of epulides in dogs, all of which share similar appearance and texture:

  • Peripheral odontogenic fibroma (fibromatous and ossifying epulides)
  • Acanthomatous ameloblastoma (acanthomatous epulides)

Acanthomatous ameloblastomas have the potential to extend into the bone, resulting in tooth mobility or loosening, or they may weaken the bone, ultimately causing fractures.

Are All Growths in a Dog’s Mouth an Epulis?

Not every growth in a dog’s mouth is necessarily an epulis. There are various types of oral tumors and potential illnesses that can lead to growths in your dog’s mouth:

  • Gingival hyperplasia: This condition involves excessive growth of a dog’s gums throughout the mouth rather than forming discrete masses.
  • Melanoma: Melanoma can produce masses in the mouth, which may be malignant (cancerous).
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This aggressive form of cancer can also develop tumors in the mouth.


Symptoms of epulis in dogs may become evident even before other signs manifest. Typical symptoms include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foul breath
  • Mouth bleeding
  • Chewing predominantly on one side of the mouth
  • Reluctance to engage in activities like catching toys or playing tug-of-war

An epulis can also lead to tooth mobility or loosening in dogs, causing mouth discomfort and difficulties in closing the mouth or chewing.


The exact cause of this tissue overgrowth is not clearly understood. Certain breeds have a predisposition to epulides, including Shetland Sheepdogs, Old English Sheepdogs, and brachycephalic breeds such as American Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Boxers.


Veterinarians diagnose epulis in dogs through a thorough examination of the dog’s mouth during a comprehensive physical checkup. Upon identifying the epulis, the next step involves surgically removing the growth under anesthesia.

Before performing any anesthetic procedure, most veterinarians require recent bloodwork to ensure the safety of the dog. Often, the removal of the epulis is accompanied by a meticulous cleaning of the teeth and gums, along with dental x-rays.

These procedures help the veterinarian assess the depth of the mass, determine if other structures are involved, and address any additional issues to maintain the dog’s oral health. This information guides the vet in planning the dog’s oral surgery.

For larger masses or those suspected of being cancerous, a biopsy may be conducted before removal to gather more information about the growth and determine the most appropriate treatment approach.

If the veterinarian suspects cancer, she may recommend chest x-rays prior to anesthesia to check for any potential metastases (malignant growths in the lungs).


The primary treatment for epulis in dogs involves surgical removal, which typically offers local cure. Despite completely removing the growth, this does not necessarily prevent the occurrence of future masses. It is generally easier and safer to remove smaller epulides. Larger tumors have a higher chance of regrowth post-removal.

After removal, the mass undergoes examination at a cellular level by a veterinary pathologist. This analysis helps identify the type of epulis and determines if any additional treatment is necessary. In some cases, radiation therapy may be recommended to lower the risk of regrowth, particularly if complete removal wasn’t achievable.

For very large epulides, your regular veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary dentist for advanced treatment options, as they may not be feasible to remove by your regular vet.

Living and Management

Recovery following epulis removal typically lasts only a few days. Your veterinarian may suggest feeding your dog soft or canned food during this period and provide pain medication to ensure your dog’s comfort.

While antibiotics aren’t always necessary post-procedure, if your veterinarian advises them, it’s important to administer them as prescribed and complete the full course of medication.

Depending on the case, your dog may or may not have stitches in their mouth. If stitches are used, they typically dissolve on their own within 10-14 days. It’s important to note that new epulides may develop over time, either in the same location or elsewhere in the mouth. Your veterinarian will continue to monitor your dog’s oral health during each visit.

Epulis in Dogs FAQs

What is the appearance of an epulis in dogs?

An epulis in dogs may appear smooth or have a cobblestone texture. It can grow either in a mound or as a stalk and often matches the color of the gums.

Is an epulis painful for dogs?

Generally, an epulis is not painful unless it interferes with activities like chewing, grooming, or playing with toys. However, if it becomes very large, it may cause discomfort.

Can epulis in dogs become malignant?

Yes, certain types of epulides can be malignant. While they typically do not metastasize to other parts of the body, they can weaken the jawbone or cause teeth to become loose.

What are the consequences of allowing an epulis to grow extensively?

Allowing an epulis to grow extensively can lead to difficulty in eating and may cause disfigurement. Some cancerous masses, such as amelanotic melanoma, can resemble an epulis, so it’s essential not to disregard any growth in your dog’s mouth.

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